Halloween was not the first slasher movie, there’s no real point in arguing that. We had many similar efforts before it, notably films like Black Christmas, Psycho and Peeping Tom. But what Halloween did was combine all of those tropes that had lingered in individual features and put them all into one template that would be relentlessly copied until the end of time. It set such a specific model for slashers from that point on that it’s hard not to see so many of the features that followed in the early ‘80s as rip offs of Halloween.
Some of them established their own mythologies, like Friday the 13th or even My Bloody Valentine. Others went further into telling the story from the killer’s POV, often making them a main character instead of hiding them in the shadows. Maniac, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and Silent Night, Deadly Night are all great examples of this.
Then, there are the movies that maybe followed the Halloween formula too closely. They didn’t change enough, they didn’t stray far enough from the structure or from Carpenter’s specific style. Whatever the case, these are the most obvious of the Halloween rip-offs.
I won’t fault it for featuring a killer with a blank white mask—technically, the Friday the 13th sequels do this as well—but pairing that with a doctor intent on tracking their former patient down and putting a stop to them by any means necessary and the connections become a little more than obvious.
The killer’s lack of motivation or expansive backstory definitely fall in line with Halloween here, as does the way the killer is shot—mostly in that same wide-angle, distant way that we see Michael for the first two-thirds of Carpenter’s classic. That’s not to say that Final Exam is without merit, but the connections are more than obvious.
Also known as Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, the similarities to Halloween are shockingly unsubtle. It’s about a young man who escapes from a mental hospital to go on a murder spree. Oh, and did I mention that he is in the institution because he murdered a couple as a young child? After his escape, he starts fixating on a new couple for no reason at all. Keep in mind that in the original Halloween, we weren’t given any explanation regarding Michael’s fixation with Laurie Strode.
In terms of atmosphere and especially the killer’s presence in the film, The Prowler’s similarities to Halloween are overt. Unlike many of the others on this list, though, this one does manage to stand out as its own slasher. It’s certainly recommendable, featuring some of the best FX Tom Savini ever created. But the killer feels very similar, as does the overall structure.
He Knows You’re Alone
Well, Halloween might not have featured Tom Hanks, but the protagonist sees the killer at a distance through most of the feature. Although, in this one, she starts to think she’s imagining him. The killer’s also a bit more specific as his victims are all women engaged to be married, but Michael did keep a focus on babysitters in the original.
Killer who took a victim as a child and escaped a mental health facility as an adult? Check. Returns home to kill again on a major holiday? Check. Has someone tracking him who knows how dangerous he truly is? Also check. While the killer has much more personality and doesn’t wear a mask, even though the person tracking him is his twin brother, this can’t hide its virtually identical plot.
The most unsubtle Halloween rip-off in existence would have to be Offerings. It doesn’t feature exactly the same plot, but the similarities are all there in terms of the style it tries to emulate and—especially—the score. The music is off by a single note. It’s not remotely subtle. Sometimes it sounds like exactly the same score, but slower. In fact, it’s kind of amazing they got away with it. But it’s almost worth seeing for its brazen nature alone.